IIt seems fitting that the penultimate men’s competition of the year takes place under the famous Hollywood Hills. Books have been commissioned about the Gulf Civil War, which apparently turned into peace in our time, but the themes would also make for a gripping movie script. The main players focus on the US Open while the background chatter is about where the sport is next on earth. Nobody has a clue.
If the United States Golf Association, one of the game’s umpires, is successful, attention for four days will not stray from the 123rd edition of this country’s national championship. The venue, the restored LA Country Club North Course, is the most intriguing major tournament in 2023. It’s the first time one of golf’s big four has been played here and the first professional individual event since the Open of LA of 1940, won by Lawson Petit at two over par. The United States prevailed when LACC hosted the 2017 Walker Cup. “Members decided it was the right time to showcase this magnificent facility to the world,” the USGA said. It’s clear who called who.
In this land of fame, A-listers don’t need to apply for membership because they’re not welcome. Victor Mature discovered this while seeking to join the LACC in the aftermath of World War II. Mature was told the cast didn’t meet the club’s criteria. “I’m not an actor,” Mature said. “I have 64 films to prove it.”
Golf clubs and their bizarre approach to rule-making are nothing new. Try running at Augusta National. Royal Birkdale, part of the Open Championship rotation, has historically done just about everything it could to prevent famous footballers – some of whom had homes along the course – from being admitted to membership .
At Western Gailes in Ayrshire, players must enter and leave the clubhouse in jacket and tie, but can throw them inside. LACC will open its doors to tens of thousands of golf fans in the coming days, but surely with an element of gritted teeth. An outline of the rules for visitors includes, under “Women’s Attire”: “Skirts should not be less than 4″ above the knee.” It adds: “Women may wear brimmed hats, not hats. golf caps, coordinating with their outfits in the clubhouse.” No color clashes, folks.
There is more. “Children under the age of 7 should maintain conservative and modest dress in accordance with club tradition.” The club prohibits tipping. Headphones and earphones are prohibited. “Club members and guests may not discuss club membership, events, policies, rules, statutes or activities using social or professional media platforms.”
Experts consider LACC to be the second most valuable real estate in the United States that was not developed for housing. Central Park tops the list. Sonny and Cher once owned an estate near the course, which went on the market in 2017 for $180 million. Hugh Hefner died the same year, causing the Playboy Mansion – neighboring the 14th tee – to fall into disrepair. The current owner, Daren Metropoulos, has kept the zoo from the mansion’s garden. Players leaving are still subject to the cries of cockatoos and peacocks. Lionel Ritchie’s sprawling mansion towers over the par-five eighth; Rory McIlroy hardly needed a one, two, three layup in practice as he cut the holeshot to a three-wood, short iron.
On a gorgeous property, other holes look fierce. The seventh par three is 284 yards. The opening hole can extend out to 590. The back nine features three par fours – the 13th, 16th and 17th – for 500 yards. Craig Connelly, younger brother of Martin Kaymer, expressed his belief on Twitter that players must carry the ball 295 yards from the tee on the 13th, or face their ball rolling back 50 yards and the green is out of reach.
“It’s a major that was close to my heart when I was in college,” Los Angeles native Collin Morikawa said. “I knew LACC was hosting a US Open. I didn’t know where my path was going to be. I didn’t know if I was going to be on the Tour, if I was going to have to qualify for that. I’ve been pro for about four years. I didn’t know where I was going to be, but it’s the one I wanted to do and be just because it’s my home. This week means so much. He always will be. It will always be really special.
“It’s a golf course for big boys. It really is. You have to hit good shots, especially with how penal the rough is. You have to hit it in the fairways. This is what you want for a major championship.
The USGA has confirmed that the US Open will return to the LACC in 2039. Their four-day challenge is to make that wait far too long.